SPORTS

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March 6, 2009

Peaking at UAAs critical in title defense

For men’s track and field, it all comes down to today and tomorrow. After months of preparation, the team is in New York, and the time has come for the Maroons to defend their UAA Indoor crown.

The UAA Indoor Championships, which open early this afternoon in New York City, have been Chicago’s focus through all six meets this quarter, and they will be the litmus test of how strong the 2009 team actually is.

With their coaches, the Maroons throughout the season have ensured that they “peak” for the conference meet, and they have used prior meets to determine which combination of runners, throwers, and jumpers maximizes their chances of scoring points in each event.

Expectations for Chicago will be as high as ever this weekend. The Maroons are the defending UAA Champions, and this year’s squad returns a significant number of athletes who put up points at the 2008 meet. The men totaled 120 points last year, 10 better than runner-up Emory. Wash U, which had taken home the previous three indoor titles, was fourth.

Because the Maroons don’t compete against UAA teams prior to the conference, it is difficult to say how things will shake out for the team this weekend. Among the athletes, though, there is little doubt about Chicago’s prospects.

“The men’s track team goes into the UAA Indoor Conference Championships as strong if not stronger than when we captured the title last year,” fourth-year sprinter Herman Reeves said. “Our team is accounted for in every event. Our talent pool is deep from jump, sprints, distance, to throws.”

A look at the UAA performance lists will bear out Reeves’ assessment. Chicago athletes are at or near the top of many of the events, and if they finish in the top two or three at UAAs, it not only earns the team points but also energizes those who have yet to compete and gives them that much more incentive.

Second-year Andrew Wells-Qu is one of the runners the Maroons will look to for an impressive performance. His time of 1:53.68 in the 800m at the Margaret Bradley Invitational two weeks ago broke a 34-year-old Chicago record, and is nearly three seconds faster than the next time listed on the UAA performance list.

Fourth-year Seth Satterlee is in a similar situation. He finished at the top of the pole vault in the 2008 meet, has the UAA’s top mark this season, and is well-positioned to earn the Maroons 10 points at this year’s championships.

Just as important will be the Maroons who don’t finish at the top of their events but still make the top five or six and pick up some points for the team. The difference between finishing sixth and scoring, and finishing seventh and not scoring is awfully thin. It is difficult to say, though, how many Chicago athletes might finish on the happy side of that divide.

That’s where the depth that Reeves mentioned comes into play. Some of the Maroons who are on the borderline between scoring and not will surely be disappointed, but with so many in the hunt for a point or two, Chicago is likely to pick up a sizable number of those marginal points.

That’s why the Maroons are confident in their odds, and it’s why can go to NYU with a sense of purpose about them. As Reeves put it, “In short, the men are here to bring home another conference title.”